Turning two, O's handle turnover

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Team leads major leagues in double plays despite infield roster instability

August 23, 2002|By Roch Kubatko and Joe Christensen | Roch Kubatko and Joe Christensen,SUN STAFF

When the Orioles attempt to explain how they lead the majors in turning double plays, they never use the continuity theory. That only works in New York.

While the Yankees' infield routinely consists of Robin Ventura, Derek Jeter, Alfonso Soriano and Jason Giambi, the Orioles have spent much of the season sorting through healthy bodies and making changes. Only now do they appear more settled.

Their infield has taken on different looks, but the results stay the same. One swing from an opponent produces two outs, and another rally is hushed.

David Segui and Jeff Conine were removed from first base because of injuries. Brian Roberts temporarily unseated Jerry Hairston as the starter at second. Shortstop Mike Bordick missed a month after fracturing his right kneecap. Only third baseman Tony Batista has been a constant, starting all but two games.

Bordick and Conine have returned, Roberts is in the minors and manager Mike Hargrove is becoming more predictable when filling out his lineup card. But until Hargrove had that luxury, his infield at various times included utility players Mike Moriarty, Luis Lopez, Jose Leon, Ryan McGuire and Howie Clark. Melvin Mora has started 35 games at shortstop.

Three double plays in last night's game increased the Orioles' total to 145. The Atlanta Braves lead the National League with 139.

"It's good when a pitcher gets a guy on base, he can have confidence in us to turn a double play," Bordick said. "I think that's a huge plus for any team, when you can stop rallies like that."

Said Hairston: "Bordy and I have a mind-set that, if it's hit anywhere near us, we're turning it."

Bordick hasn't missed a beat since coming back from his injury. He is errorless streak hit 78 games last night.

"That's the fun part of it," he said. "Even when you play the game for so long, when players are out for an extended period of time, you get those nerves, like, `I hope everything works well.' But it's like riding a bike. Instincts kind of take over and you react.

"As far as the double plays go, you certainly have to credit the pitchers. Mike Hargrove started preaching, even a couple years ago, about one of the things we have to do as a team is play solid defense. When you can establish that, which I think we have this year, the pitchers have more confidence to throw the ball over the plate and let the defense do the work."

Sides still far apart

The Orioles received an official counter offer this week in their negotiations with first-round draft pick Adam Loewen. The team had offered $2 million shortly after making him the fourth overall selection in the June draft, and his agent, Michael Moye, countered on Monday at $4.8 million.

So the ball is back in the Orioles' court, and they plan to discuss making a new offer today. Though the sides are far apart, the deadline to sign Loewen has softened since he turned down a scholarship at Arizona State and registered for classes at Chipola Junior College.

If Loewen attends one class, the Orioles won't be able to sign him until a short window before next year's draft. But Chipola might allow Loewen to sit out the fall term and still play baseball, as long as he is in school for the spring term, which starts Jan 1.

This could be advantageous for both sides because the Orioles face so much uncertainty with a strike date looming Aug. 30.

Last year's No. 4 overall pick, Gavin Floyd, signed for $4.2 million, and while he was a high school pitcher, like Loewen, the Orioles believe that the market has changed since then.

Scratched in Rochester

Suffering from flu-like symptoms, Roberts was a late scratch in last night's race against thoroughbred Zippy Chippy at Triple-A Rochester's Frontier Field. Larry Bigbie took his place in the 45-yard dash and lost by four lengths.

Rain throughout the day left the field sloppy, and Bigbie's not a mudder. "The wet field had me a little scared," he said.

Darnell McDonald was the Red Wings' original entry before injuring his leg Monday. McDonald lost to Zippy Chippy last year.

Developing a bond with the Red Wings, who also have trouble winning, Zippy Chippy lost to former outfielder Jose Herrera two years ago. He's accustomed to last-place finishes, having gone 0-93 against horses.

Sun staff writer Joe Christensen contributed to this article.

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